I am a college professor.
Every term, I expect everyone’s best effort: regular attendance, diligent note-taking efforts, and assignments turned in by the deadline. And every term, students slack off. By the midterm my attendance sheets are riddled with blank spots, and every week I get a new email or twenty explaining why this essay or that one is missing, late, or incomplete.
Most of the time when this happens, I sigh. I give a C or a D or an F where necessary and shrug it off. Students not doing what they ought to be doing is as much a part of my semester as red ink and lectures on bad metaphors. But when I sometimes find out that these slacker students are Christians?
I cringe because as Christians, we are obligated to do the best we can, whether at work or at school or at home. We are to work at “whatever we do” as “working for the Lord, not for human masters,” and to keep in mind that it is “the Lord Christ we are serving” with our efforts (Colossians 3:23-24). We are furthermore commanded to “in everything…set an example by doing what is good” so that “those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:8).
God obviously doesn’t expect that every Christian will be a CEO or a straight-A student or first chair violin in the orchestra. But he does expect wholehearted effort, exemplary behavior, and diligent work: the fundamental elements, in other words, of a good student, a good worker, a good citizen. The work that is given to us to do – whether that is pursuing a degree, taking AP history, or writing a presentation at work – is not just a means of livelihood or accomplishment, but is itself an act of service. Your identity as a student or an employee doesn’t come second to ministry; it is the ministry.
Because our God is nothing if not practical. Where do we come into contact with the most people? Work and school. Where are non-believers apt to observe our behavior during times of stress and times of calm? Work and school. Where are people watching us to see whether we will falter? Work and school. I wonder sometimes what must non-believing professors think of their Christian students who don’t bother to turn in assignments, or who shrug off the work they’re asked to do. Do they think their Christian students don’t care? Do they have a hard time imagining that Christianity makes any useful difference in their lives or manner? What kind of an impact would a caring, thoughtful Christian student or employee make in the classroom, or in the workforce?
As believers, we’re commanded to be different from the world: set apart, holy, sanctified. And there are a million ways to show that, but one of them is to do your best. Always. You’ll stand out by mere virtue of the fact that not many others do. If you put your best effort into tasks set before you, even those that seem mundane, boring, or useless, people will notice. And even if they don’t, God notices. Such effort is a sacrifice made to Him; He is aware of it, and honors it.
When I was little, and even now, my mother’s simple creed was and is this: “Do your best.” She didn’t ask for As. And in a way, that was wonderfully freeing. My mom didn’t demand first-place awards or perfection; she just wanted my best, and if I gave my best, then that was good enough. Additionally, “doing my best” as often as I could earned me respect and trust from the people around me, believers and non-believers both. I find it’s much easier to reach out to people, to build relationships with them, if that trust is there, if in your daily life you conduct yourself as someone who is mindful of what you are doing, who has integrity, who puts effort forth.
And God asks the same of us as well. Do your best! Give your all to whatever it is that you’re doing. If no one else notices, then God will, and that’s enough – but you’ll be surprised at how many door your effort opens, and how much others’ perception of you will change.
7 thoughts on “As A Christian, Doing Your Best Is Not The Exception. It’s The Rule.”
Another awesome post! I was talking to my mom about this a couple weeks ago. Sometimes we are given a difficult task (I.e. Caring for an elderly parent or 3 children under the age of 3) and we feel as though we aren’t doing any work for the Lord. If you are present and dedicated to the task before you, then you are working as unto the Lord and blessing those entrusted to your care.
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So true! Even the most seemingly “mundane” acts take on significance when they’re dedicated to God. It’s an encouraging thought!
Reblogged this on Ai Kant Spal Kwit and commented:
No half measure!
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That’s exactly right!
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Great post! I have many times reminded myself that I’m representing Him. Thankfully, He KNOWS me. I am a closet perfectionist, which usually comes out as me not making an attempt.
I became aware, a few years ago, that many days “my best” wasn’t going to look even remotely like anyone else’s. Some days, all I have to offer is a small percentage of what I have on most days. Those are the days when I just don’t want to show up, because I know people are watching me.
Sometimes I regret letting on that I’m a Jesus-follower. I hold on to His grace and forgiveness, a lot.
Mental and emotional challenges have held me back for a long time, from being who I know I could be.
Even on the days that it appears that I’m not making any progress at all, I just don’t give up. You got me thinking. 🙂
Somehow your comment got caught in my spam filter. Whoops! Sorry for the late reply.
I am a closet perfectionist too and a 100% Type-A personality. It’s hard because holding ourselves to such a high standard means we assume “our best” has to be “the best.” But it’s not always! And you’re right, it varies day to day – we give what we can, always. I always think of that parable where Jesus honors the old woman for giving out of what she had, even though others were giving more out of great wealth. Whatever you can give means a lot, even if it seems so small. You’re making all kinds of progress you can’t see. I’m glad the post got you thinking! 🙂
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